Blake Northcott writes for Bleeding Cool:
What are you trying to get made? A comic book? A novel? An HBO mini-series about a psychic elf detective and his zombie sidekick? It doesn't matter how simple or how complicated the premise is: you have to be able to sell it in an elevator.
Allow me to elaborate.
Imagine you step into an elevator somewhere in Hollywood, and standing across from you is Steven Spielberg. He smiles and asks what's in your hand…it's your project! Your dream project, and he can make it a reality. He wants the details – the 'pitch'. You have maybe 30 seconds before he gets off, and you'll never see him again. So explain it, and make him fall in love with it. And do it fast.
Whether it's someone you want to work with or someone who might back your project, there's one thing they have in common: limited time. And with limited time comes limited patience. As amazing and revolutionary that you, the artist, thinks your idea is, no one else cares (yet) and you have only a few precious sentences to make them care. Ramble, and they'll lose interest, ie. get off the proverbial elevator. They click off your page, delete your Email or mentally check out of the conversation…you've lost them forever.
I recently reached out to Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar about my current Kickstarter project (sci-fi/superhero novel 'Assault or Attrition') and this was the pitch I sent him:
The premise is somewhat like, "What if Lex Luthor succeeded in killing Superman?"
Not just a 'What If?' scenario, but more like a 'What Now?' What would he do, how would the world react, and where would he hide? Lex would be the most hated (and hunted) man on the planet.
51 words. 273 characters. Not quite a Tweet, but close – definitely 'elevator length'.
The result was an endorsement from Mister Millar that helped set my campaign on fire during it's opening week:
— Mark Millar (@mrmarkmillar) October 23, 2013
My 'long' story synopsis for the novel consists of three paragraphs, and I edited that down from a page and a half. Cutting out your carefully crafted sentences can feel like you're severing a limb, and at the time can feel just as painful, but in the end you'll be thankful you did it.
Edit. Chop. Slice. Erase. Attack that multi-page monstrosity and keep hacking away until you can fit it on a bumper sticker, because that's what gets people's attention. And once you have it down to a couple sentences – the juicy tidbits that intrigue and entice – then you can lead them to a longer description. They'll be more receptive to your ideas, and ready to hear the whole story.
Blake Northcott is a Canadian writer, Twitter-er, and Vampire Slayer (only the ones that sparkle).
She's a regular contributor at CBS Man Cave Daily, and has written two Amazon Kindle bestsellers. Her new project, the sci-fi/superhero novel 'Assault or Attrition', is currently available on Kickstarter, and features character design and illustrations by Marvel, DC, Image Comics and Adventure Time artists; including Dave Johnson, Mark McKenna, Steve McNiven, 'Roc' Upchurch, Derek Laufman, Dan Panosian and Natasha Allegri.